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Friday, January 27, 2023

Emmanuel Tshituka-inspired Lions too good for Scarlets in URC clash

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Johannesburg — The Highveld was resplendent on a scorching Sunday summer’s afternoon, but it was the Lions who brought the heat.

Marshalled by flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse once again, playing with a fire in their belly, the hosts outpaced and overpowered Scarlets in an emphatic United Rugby Championship (URC) victory that had a bit of everything. It wasn’t perfect – the Lions are still to play a consistent 80 minutes but they will be pleased with their back-to-back victories this past fortnight.

Hendrikse might have ended the match on a disappointing note after he received a yellow card in the 70th minute, but he can remain proud of his performance.

The young flyhalf has kept the Lions ticking over on the scoreboard in recent weeks, but he has also added a bit of bulk this season.

He has always been hardy, but he continues to add new dimensions to his game, such as spotting a gap and making powerful runs. He added 10 points on Sunday, but also attacked the gainline, beating two defenders and affecting one turnover.

Unlike last weekend, the Lions involved their backline from the first whistle, moving the ball immediately through the hands in an effort to stretch Scarlets. They played with a pleasing flow, and a comfortable pace.

It did not take long for the Joburgers to change the scoreboard, Hendrikse slotting over a penalty in the fifth minute. Six minutes later, the Lions were at it again, the backline combining beautifully to produce a stellar try.

After a nifty pass from Marius Louw, Rabz Maxwane bewitched the Scarlets defence to score the first try of the match. The Lions were full of running but that did not mean they forgot their power game.

PJ Botha made an impressive run, busting through weak tackles and it would eventually result in winning a penalty; Emmanuel Tshituka smashing his way off the base of the scrum to score his try in the 21st minute.

The Lions were then a bit guilty of allowing the visitors back into the game, the Scarlets poking massive holes in a fractured defence. Had it not been for some poor handling, ill-discipline and fundamental mistakes they should have been much closer score-wise to the Lions.

No 10 Sam Castelow’s faulty radar at poles did not help matters, the flyhalf missing two penalties in the first stanza.

The Welsh franchise squandered at least two opportunities, the most egregious when lock Sam Lousi crossed the whitewash, only to be judged that he collected the ball from an offside position at the breakdown. They did eventually score through Dan Davis and a powerful maul that obliterated the Lions’ efforts.

They also had a one-man advantage, after Sango Xamlashe was sanctioned, for the briefest of moments, only then to squander that when Castelow was given his marching orders for the same infringement. Xamlashe, the replacement for outside-centre Henco van Wyk, had an industrious display.

The second half started with trading blows, but the Lions landed the majority of their punches to the body, weakening the hosts, wearing the Welsh-outfit down in the altitude and temperature.

A smart line-out would then fool a lazy Scarlets, splitting their set-piece in two, resulting in Lions hero Jaco Kriel cantering through their defensive line to score an easy try on his return to action. Man of the Match Tshituka then completed his brace, and a bonus-point victory, celebrating with a jive after he placed the ball.

Point-scorers

Lions 32 — Tries: Maxwane, Tshituka (2), Kriel; Conversions: Hendrikse (2), Du Plessis; Penalties: Hendrikse (2); Yellow Cards: Xamlashe, Hendrikse

Scarlets 15 — Tries: Davis, Rodgers, Lousi; Yellow Card: Castelow

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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